The U.S. government has put forward a proposal to grant captive chimpanzees the same endangered species status as wild chimps. This proposal has not gone down well with all scientists.
The Digital Journal has given extensive coverage to the story of the U.S. research chimps this year. In January, it was reported that U.S. government scientists decided that almost all chimpanzees kept for federally funded research will be retired from laboratories. The chimps will be placed in a national sanctuary. This move meant, however, that a number of chimps would be retained for experiments.
In March, the debate of what to do with the remaining research chimps was highlighted. This was centered on a the Council of Councils, a federal advisory group, report called "Chimpanzees in Biomedical and Behavioral Research: Assessing the Necessity."
Late, in April we reported that Harvard Medical School had announced that it is to close down its primate research center. It was noted that this move was less motivated by concerns about animal testing (despite recent criticisms) but rather a consequence of a lack of funding.
The issue has continued into June. The US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has announced a proposal to change the status of captive chimpanzees from “threatened” to “endangered.” This rule, if passed, would limit permits to work with chimpanzees to projects aimed at enhancing the propagation of the species. The wildlife service would also require permits for the sale across state lines of chimpanzee cell lines, tissue, or blood. This follows a petition filed in 2010 by wildlife conservation groups, including the Jane Goodall Institute and the Humane Society of the United States.
The proposed rule is open for public comment for a period of 60 days. In a press statement, wildlife service director Dan Ashe said: "Chimps are an iconic species and among our closest relatives on this planet. We hope this will ignite renewed public interest in the plight of chimps in the wild."
Not all of the scientific community are in agreement. For example, Joe Carey, spokesman for the Texas Biomedical Research Institute in San Antonio, which hosts one of the world’s largest research chimpanzee colonies said, according to USA Today: "Human and chimpanzee lives will be lost as a result of the reclassification. It is as simple and tragic as that."